Tigard gay couple says N.M. bus driver told them to move to back of bus

TIGARD, Ore. - A Tigard couple says they were told to move to the back of an airport shuttle bus because they're gay.

Christopher Bowers and Ron McCoy said the bus driver in Albuquerque, N.M. noticed they were holding hands and made them move to the back of the bus.

"We were really on a bus, and we had a bus driver tell us, 'You're going to the back of the bus,'" said McCoy.

Bowers and McCoy were on vacation, taking a tour of the Southwest.

"We ended up going to Four Corners, and Grand Canyon, and picking up Route 66," McCoy said.

They said they never thought they would be discriminated against in a place like Albuquerque.

"(The driver) looked down at our hands," said McCoy. "He was so angry looking. And he was like, 'OK, if you're going to do that, you're going to move.'"

The couple said they moved because they didn't want to cause a commotion. They confronted the driver after the other passengers left the bus.

"He retorts, 'Why do you think?'" McCoy said. "My response was, 'I think it's because you didn't like the fact that I was holding my partner's hand.' And he just blurts out, 'See, you're telling on yourself.'"

With the help of an airport janitor and a police officer, the couple tracked down a shuttle company supervisor.

"He goes, 'The driver has the right to relocate passengers.' And I go, 'Not for these reasons,'" McCoy said.

The bus company, Standard Parking, is a city of Albuquerque contractor.

"First and foremost, it's absolutely unacceptable," said airport spokesman Dan Jiron. "We immediately got in touch with Standard Parking to assess what exactly happened. They acknowledged this was a mistake on the part of the driver."

McCoy and Bowers say that's not enough. The couple is gearing up for a legal battle.

The New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union has decided to take on their case. The ACLU said what happened was a clear violation of New Mexico's Human Rights Act, which says businesses cannot discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation.

"They feel that this is a violation for civil rights. So that basically is a violation of everyone's rights," said McCoy.

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